So I was supposed to review Torn Curtain this time around but I have already written another post so I will push that back until next time.

But for today here is a piece I wrote on a classic story retold a few times in a few different ways. Enjoy!

When writing his stage play Parfumerie, Miklos Laszlo probably did not guess that his play would spin off into three motion pictures and a stage musical. The base plot is simple, but it is retold in a new way for each movie.

Stewart and Sullivan

Stewart and Sullivan

Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan star in the 1940 adaptation of Parfumerie, The Shop Around the Corner. Set in Budapest, Hungary, the same setting as Parfumerie, Shop tells the story of two workers, Alfred and Klara, at Matuschek’s, a gift store. By day, Alfred and Klara irritate each other, each trying to outdo the other and impress their boss. But when they arrive home in the evening, one unknowingly has a secret pen pal letter from the other.

Finally the friends get the courage to meet in person. But Alfred discovers that Klara is his pen pal when he peeks in the window of their meeting place. Instead of revealing his identity, he goes in to antagonize her about her date not showing up. Klara is unhappy that Alfred of all people showed up and ruined her evening.

Distressed, Klara stays home from work the next day. Alfred decides to pay her a visit at home and brings another letter from her pen pal (himself) that explains why he broke their date. She decides to schedule another date to see her pen pal. But Alfred tries to keep her late at work by delaying her with questions about her evening. She confesses that she has never seen her pen pal. Alfred tells her that a man stopped by earlier to ask about her, but the man was old and balding.

Klara is surprised and says that she had actually hoped that her friend would look like Alfred, young and handsome. Alfred then asks if she would mind if her friend was exactly like him. She suddenly realizes that she is in love with Alfred and he with her.

The story was remade shortly after in 1949 as a musical, In the Good ‘Ol Summertime, starring Judy Garland and Van Johnson.

Judy can't help but win Mr. Oberkugen over with her voice

Judy can't help but win Mr. Oberkugen over with her voice

The plot is very similar, with Veronica Fisher (Garland) and Andy Larkin (Johnson) working together at a music store. This movie is in fact a musical, but the songs do not appear to be forced. They come at times that make sense in the movie and Judy Garland, as always, brings her voice to screen in a delightful way. For a musical, this movie actually has very few songs, but the overall flow of the movie benefits from this.

Garland and Johnson make an excellent onscreen couple. Garland is excellent in her portrayal of Veronica.  Buster Keaton also makes an appearance as a fellow worker at the music store.

Most people know the most about the third adaption made in 1998, You’ve Got Mail. Katheleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) is trying to keep her small, family-owned bookstore alive while Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) is building a large chain bookstore. While the two are competing for the surrounding community’s business, they have started an online pen pal relationship of sorts. They use the screen names “shopgirl” and “NY152” when they are corresponding. They often arrive home to hear their AOL inbox say “You’ve got mail!”

Check out that laptop!

Check out that laptop!

As in the previous two versions, when the two online friends decide to meet, Joe sees Katheleen first and recognizes her from previous meetings. He goes in and pretends they have accidently shown up at the same restaurant and insults her in the process.

But eventually Joe tries to be Katheleen’s friend, bringing her flowers when she is sick and understanding why she is angry at him for having to close her bookshop. One day she tells him that she going to meet NY152 and when it turns out to be Joe all along, she says, “I wanted it to be you.”

This version pays homage to the first by naming Kelly’s bookshop “The Shop Around the Corner”.

All of these movies are excellent, and include great star power. With the addition of songs or updated ways of communication, each offers something different when telling what a well-loved story of two unlikely people were meant for one another.

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